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ALEXANDER  YON  HU^IBOLBT.               167
by their attractive power,, which is commensurate with
their bulk; that there are comets returning in a very
short time, that Biela^s comet traverses the earth's
course, and that comets are very different in their in-
dividuality- many causes might arise which would
make apparently harmless bodies dangerous ones, and
which might scientifically confirm the indefinite fears
of former centuries.
Our readers will remember that Hximboldt observed
remarkable showers of shooting stars on his journey
to America. In "Kosmos/"1 he gives his accounts of this
subject., which he always treated with great minute-
ness. He calls the star-shoots, and the meteors, and
fire-balls of the same class, the smallest of all asteroids,
and includes them in the number of bodies revolving
round the sun; he considers them, with great apparent
probability, as little bodiesrnoving with planetary speed,
and revolving round the sun in space according to the
laws of universal gravity in conic sections3 elliptical
and hyperbolical. When these masses meet the
earth, in their course round the sun, and attracted by
it, become luminous on the verge of our atmosphere,
they often let fall a more or less hot, stony matter,
covered with a black, lustrous coating. These showers
of star-shoots have been observed to be periodical (by
Humboldt, 1799, in Cumana, and 1833 and 1834, in
North America, besides recurring annually in Novem-
ber, from the 12th to the 14th^ and in August, from, the
9th to the 14th, and known as November shoots, or
St. Laurentius showers), and Humboldt found them
brighter, more coloured, leaving a longer, brighter
trace, in the tropics, than in the temperate and cold
zones, on account of the greater transparency of the
hot atmosphere. Humboldt considers the connexion of
the meteor stones with the fire-balls as proved; namely^
that the former—often seven feet long—fall from t£$
latter, and often strike fifteen feet into the earth, and
the intimate resemblance between fire-balls and ^star-
shoots seems to him no longer doubtful, from, evident
facts. Not so evident is the constitution of these